Right now in the U.S., there is no such thing as USDA certified organic fish. Why?
Because organic standards for fish have never been passed.
That may soon change, however. The USDA is getting close to finalizing organic aquaculture production regulations, based upon recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
And what is being proposed — including allowing ocean-based fish farms and the use of wild fish, meal or oil — is a horrible idea. Not only will these standards harm the ocean’s ecosystem, but they will impact the integrity of the organic seal.
In an excellent report called Like Water and Oil: Ocean-Based Fish Farming and Organic Don’t Mix, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) outlines the key reasons why the proposed regulations are flawed and why ocean-based farms are completely incompatible with organic standards.
Here are the main points :
* Fish farms at sea pollute the marine environment. Their presence in the ocean alters oxygen levels in the vicinity of the farm, creating lifeless zones, and fish farms discharge pollutants, many of which sink to the ocean floor, reducing populations of bottom-dwelling plants and animals and mobilizing mercury and other toxins that have accumulated in the sediment.
* Fish farms at sea pose risks to wild species and aquatic ecosystems. Attracted by feces and uneaten and partially digested feed that flows out of farms, wild fish congregate nearby in large numbers. This not only alters their feeding behavior, but it also exposes the wild fish to diseases and parasites that breed within the confines of the fish farms.
* Fish farms at sea cannot prevent escapes. Escaped farmed-fish harm wild fish and ecosystems through the spread of parasites and pathogens. Disease develops in the cramped sea cages and can later infect wild salmon, trout, and eels as escaped fish swimming in oceans and rivers come into contact with wild species.
* Fish farms at sea cannot contain or control inputs and outputs. Seawater regularly flows in and out of fish farms, carrying with it unknown substances, some of which are synthetic and prohibited by law in organic production.
* Farming migratory fish can never be organic. This statement holds true regardless of the type of system in which they are reared. That is because their confinement in fish farms would curtail their biological need to swim far distances, creating stress. Some migratory species are also anadromous, such as salmon, migrating between freshwater and the ocean during various life stages, a behavior not possible while in containment.
When it comes to farmed-fish, CFS believes that a land-based, closed-loop, recirculating organic system could be possible. Yet, it strongly recommends mandating substantial field-testing to ensure the operational criteria for different types of land-based farms can meet the high standards demanded by the Organic Food Production Act.
If you’re slightly confused because you’ve seen organic fish at a restaurant or market, that is understandable. This fish was certified abroad, not from here, and is not recognized as organic in the U.S.
Yet, if we soon have USDA certified organic fish in this country, it is imperative that the regulations for fish adhere to the basic principles of organic and be comparable to how animals are raised on an organic farm – 100% organic feed, no pesticides or chemicals, the operations must promote biodiversity, etc.
Unfortunately, it is just not possible for ocean-based systems to be in compliance with the basic principles of organic.
And it boggles my mind why the NOSB continues to take action that weakens the integrity of the organic seal. This is an industry that we should be protecting at all costs, instead of allowing standards to be watered down.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If organic is important to you, please take action and sign the e-petition telling the USDA not to approve ocean-based fish farms. To do so, click HERE.
Thank you so much for your concern. I am deeply appreciative.